Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1:  What is “Civics,” exactly?

Q2:   Should the district “pilot” Civics for All before adopting it citywide?  

Q3:   Why are the banners (Essential Civics Questions and Political Spectrum) so     central to the Civics for All Approach and aren’t they more hassle than they are worth? 

Q4:   Who will pay for the initiative? 

Q5:   What accountability features does this curriculum adoption feature?

Q6:   Do any other cities have civics initiatives like this?

Q7:  Why isn’t civics already being taught K-12? 

Q8:  How will teachers find time to “cover” civics in their already overloaded syllabi and lesson plans?

Q9:  Sharing – Using Civics for All information, ideas, curriculum, etc.

1) What is “Civics,” exactly?

  •  Civics is the study of the political rights and the ethical responsibilities, or civic duties, of citizens in a democracy. It typically is broken down into three domains: knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
  • Civics is a flexible fusion of government studies, ethics, current-events, and politics.
  • “Applied civics” (also called “ service learning” and/or the “new civics”) is the application of those studies, and usually involves political action of some sort, wherein citizen-students use their civic knowledge and conception of civic duty to apply themselves to make changes that they see fit in their community and government via authentic civic engagement activities.

Ultimately, as Aristotle suggests, civics is ethics, ethics is politics, and, ergo, civics is politics.

2. Should the district “pilot” Civics for All before adopting it citywide? 

  •  No.  It is absolutely unnecessary.  Mock elections and civics education have been going on in American K-12 schools for two centuries.  Many schools already do them in Seattle and only practice makes perfect. To withhold teaching, learning, and training for participation in our democracy from any school or child is unnecessary. 
  • Learning comes through doing, and the template for mock elections is simple and clear, even as it is easily adapted to implementation styles that each school chooses.  Nathan Hale HS, under the leadership of Principal Jill Hudson and social studies teacher Tim Ames (a CFA boardmember), is a model school when it comes to civics and elections.  Hale not only stages traditional mock elections, but also facilitates periodic forums for the public, including pre-election forums for the Seattle City Council race and for the 2015 SPS school board race!  
  • Although piloting new programs is done periodically, it is generally reserved for untried, risky programs with tentative funding.  Civics for All’s basic lessons, centerpieced on mock elections, are based on best practice pedagogies.
  • The $250,000 grant to SPS to fund Civic’s for All’s annual elections for five years is a use it or lose it grant.

3) Why are the banners (Essential Civics Questions and Political Spectrum) so central to the Civics for All Approach and aren’t they more hassle than they are worth?      

  • The banners are absolutely essential to the program for a variety of reasons:
  • Most kids are visual learners, and all benefit from recurrent review and reinforcement, including call and response and other approaches.
  • Helping kids succeed. Political spectrum poster – this is a no-brainer- not having a clear and easily visible representation of the political spectrum in our social studies classrooms is like not having a map, or like not having posted the periodic table of the elements in a science class. Civics is politics, as Aristotle suggested many times. The spectrum is a constant in any thoughtful analysis of most every issue that arises across the curriculum (think global warming [science], or The Great Gatsby [LA], or analysis of tax rates [math], or immigration [foreign languages], as well as the social studies. Plus kids love the contentiousness of politics so it increases opportunities for engagement, especially among at risk kids.
  • Essential Questions are an established, highly versatile “best practice” with a long pedigree – they promote the sort of inquiry based thinking that is highly valued by colleges and employers. The ability to use timeless essential civics questions also offers students the foundations to devise and ask their own EQs.
  • Credibility of civics: Civics has been required for decades and for decades it has been widely overlooked – teachers are stressed about standards (which are often posted on the wall) – Having civics posters in every room or schools makes a very significant statement of importance for students and teachers alike – Civics is Crucial!
  • Visual Reminder – Visual Cue: Essential Civics Questions posters provide teachers with a crucial reminder not just that civics matters, but that lessons should be tied into civics: I am reminded to refer to Essential Civics Questions just because it is on my classroom wall – sometimes students even remind me to consider them! For example, in 2012, the EQ banner helped my students and I frame and analyze classic Civics questions that relate to the “Hunger Games,” to the political/financial collapse in Greece, and to the gun control debate following the elementary school massacre at Newtown. For teachers in non-social studies disciplines the civics posters will be even more essential as a prompt to teach from and a prompt to learn from – a visual cue is hugely important to help build teacher buy in and student engagement.
  • Visual Continuity – Touchstones: Civics posters provide a crucial touchstone as students move from class to class and grade to grade, aiding in vertically integrated instruction and all school awareness about civics.
  • Visual learners: For visual learners the banners are essential of course.
  • Teacher freedom: The banners do not prescribe content to be taught – rather they offer time honored frameworks for analysis within which teachers can choose various “frames” to present material.

4) Who will pay for the initiative?

  • Luckily the proposal is not as expensive as other, recent adoptions – we have set a goal of $250,000 to fund it properly.
  • In the winter and spring of 2014, KCE, under the leadership of Sherril Huff, in concert with the King County Council, under the leadership of Larry Phillips, provided a $250,000 grant to SPS to fund Civic’s for All’s annual elections for five years.  This is a use it or lose it grant.
  • There are many wealthy, educationally inclined philanthropically minded citizens in Seattle. And interest in contributing has been expressed.
  • unding opportunities large and small exist – please consider donating and being part of history – of making Seattle a truly great civics education city! We need your help and financial support!!

5) What accountability features does this curriculum adoption feature?

The main accountability feature is the standard one. When the district adopts policy the chain of command is expected and required to enforce its implementation, from the superintendent to the EDs, to the principal, to the classroom teacher.

Currently, the solitary civics CBAs that are required at 5th, 7th, and 11th grade are collected electronically by most in-building social studies department chairs, and forwarded to the SSD’s social studies coach downtown. We are seeking to expand this accountability measure to include the much larger Civics for All annual crop of civics CBAs.

Each school will have a “Civics Coordinator” for the first 3 years of the Initiative to help facilitate implementation of the program as well as accountability.

Internal accountability: the proposal is so turnkey and can improve academic engagement and achievement so quickly that as teachers experience success with the approaches they will undoubtedly share with one another.

6) Have any other cities had civics initiatives like this?

Yes. Civics education is sweeping the nation.  Seattle is behind the curve…substantially. Chicago has amazing, well funded civics programs going at a number of schools but they are not taking a complete, district-wide civics approach the leader in this regard. Plano, TX has a similar K-12 district wide mock election tradition.  Still our’s would be one of the most sweeping civics initiative in any city in the country (as far as I have been told).  At the state level, California and Tennessee stand out for excellent progress in k-12 civics infusion into broad swaths of curriculum.

7) Why isn’t civics already being taught K-12?

Good question! Mainly it has been loss to the teach to the test, kill and drill, if it’s not tested it’s not taught thinking of the No Child Left Behind era. Under NCLB social studies and civics were given less attention as the curriculum “narrowed” around math and literacy. There is little reason to believe this won’t happen again under the Common Core – unless we stake out some time and space in the curriculum for civics –and that is the driving rationale behind Civics for All.

8) How will teachers find time to “cover” civics in their already overloaded syllabi and lesson plans?

  • That this question is even asked – and it frequently is – tells us how our society and our schools have totally lost sight of the role of schools in a democracy. We should never be asking how we are going to “fit in” time to study democratic citizenship skills and principles.
  • Civics for All hopes to bring such conversations to light. Nonetheless, time invested in civics connections pays for itself in improved classroom behavior and productivity – that is how much making civics connections can pay off.
  • There are marked increases in teacher agency when civics is part of the lesson, which also helps to increase productivity in the classroom, which saves time and more.


Documents, links, etc. :Click to download the following documents or follow directions to those documents in the website.

1) PETITION:  The slickest petition sheet in the land!!!! Download it by clicking here – this document is a HUGE HIT WITH KIDS, and can be sued in any advocacy efforts including your civics proposal. You can see it a al Trayvon Martin and Beastmode by clicking here.

2) NCSS Advocacy Webinar: Cultivating a Civic Culture of Learning with Web Hutchins

3) Civics for All Essential Questions

4) Civics for All political spectrum banner